1981 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"We spent long hours with total dedication. That's how we started off from almost nothing and built a very successful company."
One of 23 children in his family, Huey Wilson was born in 1928 on a farm in Norco, Louisiana. His father worked for Shell Oil Company and the Wilson children ran the farm. At 18, Wilson entered the Army Air Corps. A friend in the service got him interested in the jewelry trade, and when he was released from service he used his savings to attend trade school in Kansas. He opened a small jewelry and watch repair shop in Norco. The store did well, but Wilson was dissatisfied by the limited sales potential of a small town. He took a job with an established jeweler in Baton Rouge and also freelanced as a jewelry repairman and mounter for other jewelers at night. In 1949, he opened his own shop in Baton Rouge. He often traveled throughout southern Louisiana and sold jewelry out of the trunk of his car while his wife maintained the city store.
In 1956, Wilson began using the "discount" merchandising philosophy, providing quality jewelry at prices below those of traditional jewelry stores. In 1958, he opened his first catalog showroom in Baton Rouge. "I developed the catalog showroom concept from which we built a tremendous company," he said. When Wilson sold the company in 1985, he had 80 showrooms in 46 cities. It was the third largest company in the catalog showroom industry with sales exceeding $500 million a year. Wilson went on to help his children, two sons and a daughter, build a unique jewelry superstore chain in regional mall locations.
Wilson was honored for his work with numerous charities. He was named B'nai B'rith Man of the Year and Baton Rouge Free Enterpriser of the Year. He was active with the National Hemophilia Foundation and a member of the boards of General Health, a major hospital, and the Salvation Army in Baton Rouge.* Deceased